Monday, 10 May 2010

How to handle a biting toddler, or not?

The day care told me last week that the toddler bit three of her class mates last week.

Horrors! (Our little angel?)

I immediately felt like I had to apologise. I also tried to find out what sparked the aggression. I know there is a “bully girl” with them. The babies are always crying around her. What about her? Was she not involved? Apparently the “bully girl” is much better now. (What are they saying? Is Mieka the bully now?)

I could only muster: “We have never seen this behaviour at home.” (We haven’t!)

But what do you do?

- Talk to her, telling her nicely that it is not nice to bite her friends. Not likely! She will only look at me with those innocent blue eyes...

- Biting her when she bites you? This is the advice that most people give. I am not comfortable with it at all! (The lesson: I am teaching you: violence with violence!)

- Giving her loads of attention. (Check!)

- Teaching her with positive reinforcements that it is not acceptable behaviour to hurt other people. (Check!) At the moment she still thinks it is funny to hit at us in play, not understanding the impact. This is part of the development level where she is.

- I think it is one of the most important things to learn sympathy and empathy, and it is something to be taught!

Luckily Mieka hasn’t done it again, and thumbs crossed I won’t feel like I have to explain again at the day care.

How do you handle a biting toddler?


  1. At her age it is "normal" for toddlers surrounded by same age kids to bite. My kids bit classmates and they got bitten often as well. They still need to learn to express their feelings using words and when frustration cannot be expressed, they bite.

    When they bite all the time and do not improve over time using language instead of biting or hitting, you have a problem.

    My kids at 3 - 4 years of age did not bite anymore and we are now struggling with "how" language are used. Screaming and not using "Please" and "Thank you" are the new challenges!

  2. Oh my, I can write books about this on. The boys were terrible, and only after more than a year we seem to have that one sorted out.

    I do not like the bite back idea because it is really sending the wrong message.

    I did what the school does - place the biter in time-out and give heaps of attention to the bitten one.

  3. Eish. MArielle also started this behaviour when she was the same age as Mieka. Delightful - these obviously don't belong to us! Hey- I bit her back - but softly. So that she would understand that it was hurtful. Seems to have worked - but maybe she just outgrew it!

  4. I agree that biting back teaches them that it is okay. Dylan bites me and I am scare he will bite others. I tried putting his finger in his own mouth which worked a bit but sorry to say this I flick his ear lightly. He doesn't see it coming so looks surprised. He now knows that when he bites me his ear stings a tiny bit. He has stopped.

    I must also add that he bites me when he is teething mainly so I give him something else to bite.

  5. Thanks for all the advice! :D I will try the time-out discipline method first, and try to avoid biting back! For now...

  6. Hi Karen- my daugther was bitten on monday by her class mate - 3 years old, the mom phoned me to apologise and said they have tried everything and they have now bitten her back. my daughter bit me twice when she was small and i bit her right back and she stopped. good luck


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